How Many Independent Candidates Will Thwart Republican Chances To Win Congressional Seats?
Will Ron Paul get to wipe that smug smile off his face?
I don't think Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr are going to do much damage to McCain anywhere (who, in any case, is doing plenty of damage to himself). I guess if it's really, really close in Georgia and Barr does better than anyone thinks he will, he could throw that state to Obama. The Libertarian candidate might also hurt McCain in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Colorado, maybe even Ohio. But I wouldn't count on it. And Obama isn't either. In Montana and Louisiana, on the other hand, Ron Paul is on the ballot-- on the Constitution Party and the Taxpayers Party, respectively. A few days ago, Gov Brian Schweitzer said that Paul would be the decider in Montana.
Now some down-ticket races are similar to the Montana situation. There are several where strong showings by independent candidates will decide the outcome. In the past we've written about right-wing xenophobe David Krikorian taking Republican votes from Mean Jean Schmidt in Ohio's 2nd CD, a red bastion, where Vic Wulsin is neck and neck with Mean.
Today's CQPolitics warns that there are half a dozen close congressional races where independent candidates could make the difference between the Democrat and the Republican. Two of these races hurt Democrats. In FL-13 progressive Democrat Jan Schneider is on the ballot, offering an alternative between far right extremist incumbent Vern Buchanan and conservative nominal Democratic Christine Jennings. Schneider doesn't seem to be doing much campaigning and Buchanan looks pretty safe from the lackluster, admitted Blue Dog anyway.
There's a somewhat-- but only somewhat-- similar situation in LA-06 (Baton Rouge), where extremely conservative nominal Democrat Don Cazayoux managed to win a special election with a massive turn-out in state Senator Michael Jackson's inner city district. Now Jackson is on the ballot as an independent and he could threaten Cazayoux's re-election prospects, particularly because Cazayoux has completely abandoned any pretense of support for a progressive agenda and, on crucial substantive issue, has voted with the Republicans almost twice as often as with the Democrats-- a despicable category he shares with other so-called Democrats pulled from deep of the bowels of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, like John Barrow (GA), Travis Childers (MS), Nick Lamspon (TX), Jim Marshall (GA), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Heath Shuler (NC). Blue America even thought about supporting Jackson-- until we discovered that he's nearly as bad as Cazayoux, at least on the choice issue.
The rest of the races are all bad news for Repugs. The highest profile one is the Senate race in Minnesota where Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley is polling at around 18%, probably hurting Coleman far more than Franken.
Also in Minnesota-- and also bad news for the far right Republican-- the Independence Party is running David Dillon for the seat being abandoned by mainstream conservative Jim Ramstad. The GOP has nominated a far right extremist, Erik Paulsen, to try holding the seat against progressive war vet Ashwin Madia. The latest polling shows Dillon with 8% of the vote-- crucial, since Madia is only leading the wingnut by 3 points.
In NJ-07 another mainstream conservative, Mike Ferguson, is retiring and, again, the GOP is trying to insert a far right extremist in his place, Leonard Lance. Democratic state Rep. Linda Stender is running ahead of Lance, at least partly because of the vigorous and well-financed campaign by ex-Republican Michael Hsing. Hsing will draw moderate Republicans away from Lance.
Meanwhile, a far bigger factor is coming into play that independents: "McCain Drag", or reverse coattails, on down-ticket races. McCain has already proven himself a disaster for GOP House candidates in special elections in red districts of Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi, all of whom were beaten by Democrats. Bush rubber stamp Chris Shays has been successful in distorting his record enough to trick many independents in CT-04 into thinking he wasn't a Bush clone. Now he's trying to persuade them that he's down with Obama, who is polling 20 points ahead of McCain in the district.
But progressive Democrat Jim Himes is looking like the man to finally put an end to Shays' disgraceful and dishonest political career.
McCain's non-existent coattails run counter to the initial conventional wisdom that said his moderate style and crossover appeal would lift Republican candidates down ballot. That's just not the case two weeks out from Election Day.
...A big wave for Obama might be too much of a burden for Republican congressional candidates to bear at a time when they are already saddled with an unpopular Republican president and an unpopular Republican brand.
An old friend of mine in Connecticut even told me that Shays is telling supporters there not to put up McCain lawn signs if they have Shays lawn signs in their yards, lest he be any further McTainted as the McCain campaign co-chair. In fact, Shays doesn't even have a McCain sign up in his own front
One more note on congressional races today: when Blue America endorsed progressive Democrat Annette Taddeo over reactionary Bush rubber stamp Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Annette was down by 31 points. The DCCC told us it was a hopeless race and one of the chairs of the Red to Blue Committee even refused to endorse her and was tacitly supporting her pal Ros-Lehtinen. A greta dela has changed since then and Annette has continued chipping away at Ros-Lehtinen's credibility-- and her lead. The latest polling from Miami-Dade:
Recent polling in the 18th Congressional District shows that Annette Taddeo (D) is now within striking distance of the incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R). Taddeo has significantly cut Ros-Lehtinen’s lead since the benchmark polling in June. Currently, Taddeo trails by 7 points (48% to 41%) while in June, Ros-Lehtinen led by 31 points (58% to 27%).2 Ros-Lehtinen’s re-elect numbers have also dropped, with a majority (56%) of the voters now planning on replacing or considering replacing her.
Taddeo’s gains reflect aggressive campaigning since June, resulting in an increase in Taddeo’s name recognition from 14% to 63%. Moreover, the climate in the district has become more favorable to a Democrat for a number of reasons. First, Barack Obama now leads John McCain 47% to 45%, coming back from a 10-point deficit in June. Second, Democrats are making historic gains in voter registration throughout south Florida, and in the 18th Congressional District in particular. In just two years, the Republican advantage over the Democrats in the 18th CD has dropped from 22,000 to less than 2,000,3 making this area a prime spot for a Democratic takeover.
Other key highlights from the poll include:
∑ Ros-Lehtinen’s favorables have declined while her unfavorables have increased. Moreover, because she is so well known in the district (94% are familiar with her) Ros-Lehtinen has very little room to grow her support, while Annette Taddeo is in a far better position to become better known to the electorate.
∑ Key issues such as bringing change to Washington are more likely to be associated with Taddeo than Ros-Lehtinen.
∑ Of the undecided voters who were then asked to whom they were leaning, 78% went to Taddeo and only 22% to Ros-Lehtinen.
Oh, and that Red to Blue chairperson who refused to support Annette? She donated $10,000 to the campaign and has given up on Ros-Lehtinen entirely. Now if we can just get the DCCC to include Annette in the Miami-Dade ads they're running for Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia... Who knows? But Annette can certainly use some help in continuing to close that shrinking gap. It will be money well-spent!
Yum, Yum Gordon Smith frozen peas!